Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Fulll marks to Tromsø University Museum

The University Museum was open on Sunday and I found it very thought provoking and engaging - particularly the exhibition "Sapmi - Becoming a Nation" which you can explore a little, too, by following the link. The three rooms manage to tell a story very familiar to me from my time living in North Wales about cultural assimilation, the resurgence of national identity in the 1960's and '70's, and the tensions that this creates between peoples living in an area.

The reconstruction after the German "burnt earth" destruction of this area in the war was characterised by standardisation, new settlement building in the post-war style, and an even more pressing desire on the part of the mainstream cultural establishment to give this part of Norway a single national identity. Effectively, the end of a millennium or so of tradition for the Sami living here, who at the time felt ashamed of being regarded as a backward and overly conservative minority in this vast region.

Few of us realise that only 10% or so of the Sami were reindeer herders before the devastating cultural changes brought about by the war and the reconstruction period.

But of course it's not a story with a happy ending: the defacing of the road sign above is a small indicator of the depth of feeling here about the re-establishment of Sami identity in the period since the 1960's.

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